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5 Best Snorkeling and Diving Spots in Sabah

5 best snorkeling and diving spots in Sabah.For this article, we would like to invite all of our readers to imagine the serene moments of relaxation on the seashore, where time seems to stand still, and the comfort of a beach resort promises a restful night’s sleep.

5 Best Snorkeling and Diving Spots In Sabah

1. Sapi Island



Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia


Recommendation Time?

Dry Season (April to October)

This period is considered the dry season in Sabah, with lower chances of rainfall. The months between April and October are ideal for visiting Sapi Island if you prefer sunny weather and calmer seas. The peak tourist season falls within this period, especially from May to August, so expect more visitors during these months.


What kind of experience should I look forward to?

  • Ziplining
  • Swimming
  • Scuba Diving
  • Hiking


What’s the recommended route to reach that place?


Head to the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal

Sapi Island is a constituent of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, and typically, boat services to the islands embark from the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal. This terminal is situated in the heart of Kota Kinabalu’s city center.

You need to purchase Boat Tickets

Once you arrive at Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal, they offer boat services to the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, giving you the flexibility to select one that aligns with your preferences and schedule. During this period, you have the opportunity to buy tickets for a boat journey to Sapi Island.

The boat ride usually around 15 to 20 minutes.


Admission Fees

The Zipline ride:  RM 65  ( includes a boat ride to the neighboring Gaya Island and a return journey through the zipline )



2. Mantanani Islands


one of 5 best snorkeling and diving spots in sabah


Known as the biggest island among three , the others are Mantanani Kecil and Lungisan. Most of people love to go there for fun diving and to see dugongs.

Mari Mari Mantanani Island is full of sea life and colorful coral. If you like snorkeling or diving, you can see lots of different fish and beautiful coral. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a sea turtle.

But it’s not just about water activities. You can also do other fun things on the island like play games on the beach, relax in the sun, or take a slow walk by the water. It’s a great place for a mix of adventure and relaxation.





Mantanani Islands are a group of three isolated islands located northwest of Kota Belud


When is the ideal time to explore Mantanani Islands?

You have the opportunity to visit Mantanani Islands throughout the year since Sabah doesn’t experience an extreme monsoon season. However, we recommend planning your visit between April and September for the most favorable conditions. If your visit falls outside this timeframe, it’s advisable to be flexible with your schedule as there may be heavier rain and rougher seas. In case of unfavorable weather, keep in mind that tours and boat operations may be canceled for safety reasons.

What kind of experience should I look forward to?

Occasionally referred to as the Mermaid Islands because of the existence of sea creatures known as “Dugong” (sea cows) that inhabit the waters of Borneo. These captivating creatures have served as inspiration for numerous fairy tales depicting tales of lovely young women with finned tails assisting lost fishermen in the sea.








What’s the recommended route to reach that place?

It takes about one hour to drive from the main city of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, to reach these islands. Then, you can reach the islands in around 55 minutes by speedboat from the Kuala Abai Jetty on the mainland.



3. Maiga Island




Located in between Sibuan Island and Selakan Island


Best time to visit?

The best time to visit Maiga Island is from April to September. In these months, the weather is better, making it perfect for activities like picnics, snorkeling, scuba diving, and exploring the Sea Gypsies village. It’s a good idea to plan your visit during this time to avoid difficulties caused by heavy rain and rough seas that can happen in other months.


What’s the recommended route to reach that place?

The journey takes about 35 minutes by speedboat if you are going from Semporna Town.


What kind of experience should I look forward to?

Picnics at Noon
The island features a sandy beach that wraps around it, providing excellent shelter from the monsoon winds throughout the year.

Exploring the Underwater World
Refer to the section above for information on day tours for snorkeling and scuba diving at Tun Sakaran Marine Park.

Village of Sea Gypsies
Maiga Island is home to a small and welcoming community of Bajau Laut, also known as Sea Gypsies. Aside from coconut trees, there is no evidence of other types of cultivation on Maiga Island, suggesting that the Bajau Laut primarily sustain themselves through fishing.




4. Lankayan Island



Sulu Sea, off the northeast coast of the state of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo


What’s the recommended route to reach that place?

Fly to Sandakan: Commence your journey by flying to Sandakan, as Lankayan Island is located off the coast of Sandakan in Sabah, Malaysia.

Travel to the Jetty: Upon arrival at the Sandakan airport, make your way to the jetty, the departure point for boats heading to Lankayan Island. You can opt for a taxi or explore other local transportation choices.

Boat Transfer to Lankayan Island: Upon reaching the jetty, board a boat to Lankayan Island. The boat journey serves as the primary mode of transportation to the island.

Resort Arrangements: Lankayan Island boasts various resorts, and many visitors prefer booking packages inclusive of both boat transfers from the jetty to the island and accommodations. Contact your chosen resort to inquire, as they often handle transportation logistics for their guests.



What kind of experience should I look forward to?


Diving and Snorkeling

The island is a popular destination for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts. Explore the rich marine life, including colorful coral gardens and a variety of marine species. Lankayan is particularly renowned for its diverse underwater ecosystems.

Marine Conservation

Lankayan Island is committed to marine conservation efforts. Some resorts on the island actively participate in turtle conservation programs. Depending on the time of your visit, you may have the opportunity to witness turtle hatchings.

Exclusive Resorts

The island is home to a few resorts that offer a blend of comfort and nature. Visitors often stay in overwater bungalows or beachfront accommodations, providing a unique and immersive experience.

Sunset Views

The island offers stunning sunset views. Enjoy the breathtaking sight as the sun sets over the horizon, casting warm hues across the sky and the water.

Hatchlings of baby sea turtles (Green and Hawksbill)

Visitors can also witness the hatchlings of baby sea turtles (Green and Hawksbill)



5. Semporna Islands Park




Located in the state of Sabah, Malaysia. Specifically, it is situated in the vicinity of Semporna, a town on the east coast of Sabah


Recommendation time

Usually, you can go to Semporna and go diving there anytime. But the best time is from April to July when it’s drier. More people visit during this time, and it’s harder to get permission to dive in Sipadan.


What’s the recommended route to reach that place?

By Car
To get around the mainland easily, using a car is the best option because public transportation isn’t very convenient. While there are affordable private taxis in town, it’s not recommended to use them as they operate illegally. If you don’t plan to drive, you can also use ride-sharing services like Grab.

By Boat
If you want to travel from island to island for diving or snorkeling, there are many tour operators in Semporna. If you book a tour package from an island resort, they will typically arrange your transportation from the mainland to the island, as well as your diving or snorkeling trips between islands.



What kind of experience should I look forward to?

In Semporna, many people come to do two main activities


Diving and snorkeling

There are lots of places to dive, and Sipadan Island is the most popular. But getting a permit for Sipadan can be hard because they only allow a certain number of people each day. If you can’t get a permit, there are other great islands to visit like Mabul Island and Kapalai Island, as well as others in the Tun Sakaran Marine Park.

You can also go on island-hopping tours in Semporna. People who like diving and snorkeling use these tours to go to different places, but if you don’t want to dive, you can still go from island to island and relax on the beautiful beaches.

If you enjoy hiking, there are trails on both the islands and the mainland. Bohey Dulang Island has a famous trail where you can see a fantastic view of the sea and other islands. On the mainland, you can go to Tanjung Parapat for another great view at the top.

For those who don’t want to dive, there are other water sports to try, like parasailing, banana boat rides, and jet skiing on Timbun Mata Island.



What to wear during snorkeling/Scuba trip


Finding a mask that fits your face well is crucial. When you press the mask to your face without using the strap, it should stay in place on its own. If there’s any air leakage, it means the fit is not right.

Mask Defogger
To prevent your mask from fogging up, use a defogger designed for goggles. Opt for a non-toxic, biodegradable, and alcohol-free option for your safety and to protect the reefs. Alternatively, a simple method is to spit into the mask, rub the saliva around, and rinse it before use.

The mouthpiece is a vital consideration when selecting a snorkel—ensure it feels comfortable. Many snorkels with a “purge valve” let water out but not in. Choose a snorkel that stays close to your head to minimize drag.

Swim Cap or Bandana
Use a swim cap or bandana to keep hair out of your snorkel and prevent scalp sunburn. Surgical caps with ties, like those worn by doctors, are ideal as they prevent slipping. Obtain one inexpensively from a medical supply company.

Float Vest
For less confident swimmers, consider renting or buying a float vest to stay buoyant and ease any nervousness.

Wetsuits not only keep you warm in cooler water but also offer protection against sunburn and ocean particles. Shorty wetsuits, with short sleeves and knee-length leggings, are perfect for slightly cooler water and are convenient for packing.

Rash Guard
When water is too warm for a wetsuit, a rash guard provides sun protection and guards against stinging elements in the ocean.

Biodegradable Sunscreen
Purchase for reef-friendly sunscreen that biodegrades in water to avoid damaging the reefs you’re there to enjoy.

For snorkeling, shorter fins are often preferred for easier direction changes and reduced weight during kicks. If you’re interested in free diving, choose longer fins for faster and deeper swims.

Neoprene Socks
Even well-fitting fins can cause blisters, especially on the back of your ankles. Neoprene socks offer comfort and help keep your feet warm.



Safety and Precautions

  • Understand How Well You Can Snorkel and Swim
  • Always check the whether before going out
  • Don’t Drink Alcohol or Get Too Tired When Snorkeling
  • Use Good Snorkeling Gear
  • Don’t Snorkel Early in the Morning or Late in the Evening, or in Water That’s Not Clear


Exploring snorkeling in Sabah is absolutely worth it for a variety of reasons. Sabah, located in Malaysian Borneo, is like a treasure chest for underwater enthusiasts, offering a unique and memorable experience for snorkelers.

exploring snorkeling in Sabah is a journey into a world of wonders. With its diverse marine life, unique underwater formations, warm waters, and opportunities for island hopping, Sabah provides an ideal setting for an unforgettable snorkeling adventure.

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